Summary: 2nd to Last Sunday in Pentecost: Sheep or Goats? God’s mercy and grace, have filled our hearts so that our good works become the proof that we are his sheep!
Some weeks ago I was watching the Health Channel on TV. They showed and described different types of plastic surgery procedures. I was amazed at the things that plastic surgeons can do now-a-days. If you need more luscious lips, they can inject collagen and make your lips downright pouty. If you would like higher looking cheekbones, you can get a tug here and a lift there and presto – cheekbones to rival Sofia Loren. If you wanted your derrière to be less wide, the plastic surgeons can slim it down. If you need just a bit more here or there, they can augment most parts of your body.
A body builder thought that nature slighted him by giving him calves that were too skinny. I’ll be darn tootin’ if they didn’t put calf implants in his legs in order to make them shapelier. You name it, and they can make it, cut it out, lift it up, push it over, fill it in or tighten it up.
This show really got me thinking. Why would people want to go through the suffering involved in cosmetic surgery? The poor guy with the calf implants limped around for a month because of the pain. Recovery from some of the plastic surgery procedures is downright grueling. Why would people endure all of that? It’s obviously not always a matter of necessity. Most of the procedures are elective. Most of the people are not actors or actresses that depend on their looks to make a living. So why? Some say vanity. But on the show I watched, some of the people interviewed seemed to doubt that they were OK the way they were. They thought that they didn’t quite measure up.
Do you measure up? Kids who feel that they haven’t met the expectations of their parents would answer, “no.” Do you measure up? If we feel that we don’t quite fit in, not quite one of the crowd – we answer that question, “no!” Do you measure up? If we think that our looks are substandard, we answer the question, “no.” Do you measure up? If we think that our wardrobes are not quite in fashion, the answer to the question is, “no.” Do you measure up? If we don’t have the kind of job that we feel that we deserve, the answer is, “no.” And the litany of not quite good enough – not measuring up - plagues people for a lifetime. Into this whole mix come Jesus’ words penned by Matthew Levi in our Gospel Lesson today. [Read Gospel text here]
This can be one of the most disconcerting texts in scripture. It leaves us wondering, “Do we measure up?” Am I one of the sheep or one of the goats? You see, in this text Jesus speaks about what will happen when the world as we know it, ends. He speaks about a coming judgment – a judgment where the eternity of all people will be determined. He speaks about a time when all that we value: high cheekbones; shapely calves; pouty lips; designer wardrobes; fast-track career paths – won’t mean anything. The only thing that will matter is: will I be on Jesus’ left – a goat? Or will I be on Jesus’ right – a sheep? Do I measure up?
The people to Jesus’ left were shocked to learn that they had missed the boat. They didn’t have a clue that they didn’t measure up. They couldn’t know because they never took the time to notice. They lived self-satisfied lives in the face of human suffering and need. When Jesus said to them, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” they were blown away. But why Lord? How can this be, Jesus?
But we find a surprising Jesus here. No longer the kindly servant who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey; no longer the suffering Messiah Who died on the cross - but the Judge Who says: “Depart from me – go into the eternal fires.” You lived only for yourselves. You never raised a finger for the needy. You had no compassion for the hungry and naked. Those languishing in prison never entered your minds. You’ve lived as if life was all about you - your contentment. When God came calling, you laughed. When it came time to serve others, you said things like, “I’m busy. I don’t have time. I go to church, what more do you want? I gave money.”
“But that doesn’t cut it – that doesn’t measure up,” the Lord will say. How could you go on living that way - thinking – thinking that you were Christian? How can the love of Christ be in you while you choose to ignore the need of your brother or sister?